Nicola de Santis was appointed, as at 1 September 2019, by the Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, Head of the Engagements Section in the Public Diplomacy Division of the NATO Headquarters in Brussels. This Division aims at promoting security cooperation through a variety of programmes in NATO member nations and in partner countries, contributing to a continuous process of international security debate and policy creation. In this capacity, Mr. de Santis is responsible for leading and managing the Alliance’s public diplomacy activities and programmes, to promote a better understanding of NATO, its values, policies and activities, fostering dialogue and cooperation with relevant audiences in NATO and partner countries. To this end he manages a diverse multinational staff at the NATO Headquarters in Brussels, as well as at the NATO offices on Moscow and in Kiev.
Prior to that, he was for nine years (2010-2019) the Head of the Middle East and North Africa Section in the Political Affairs and Security Policy Division of the NATO Headquarters in Brussels, where he was responsible for developing and promoting NATO policy, political relations, individual practical cooperation programmes and public diplomacy activities, with Middle Eastern and North African countries, especially those participating in NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue (MD) and in the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI). He also ensured coordination with all other Divisions of NATO’s International Staff, International Military Staff and relevant NATO Military Authorities, for all aspects of NATO’s cooperation with countries in the Middle East and in North Africa.
During his three-decade career at the Brussels NATO Headquarters, which he joined in November 1991 following international competition, Mr. de Santis served under seven NATO Secretary Generals, in different senior executive policy and communications positions. He has a deep knowledge of NATO and many years of extensive international experience, especially in establishing and managing high level cooperative relations and projects between NATO and its member countries, PfP, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries; advising NATO Secretary Generals and Deputy Secretary Generals on high level political relations with these countries and conducting high level negotiations for international agreements with them. Mr. de Santis has as well a thorough experience of working in concert with other NATO Divisions and Military Authorities, including during the NATO crisis management arrangements of the military crises of Bosnia, Kosovo and particularly of Libya, during which he was in charge of sensitive political and military aspects of this crisis managed by NATO upon UN mandate.
Mr. de Santis, joined the Office of the Secretary General of NATO (OSG), Office of Information and Press (OIP), on 1 November 1991, following international competition, as Head of the NATO Countries’ Academic Affairs, in the External Relations Section, a position he was appointed to by then Secretary General Manfred Woerner, in order to establish NATO’s cooperative ties with strategic studies centers, international affairs institutes and think tanks doing work in international and security affairs, in all of the then 16 NATO member countries. Following another international competition, he was appointed in January 1994 as Briefing and Liaison Officer Italy, External Relations Section, OSG, OIP, in charge of NATO’s relations with Italy, establishing and maintaining contacts with government authorities, political parties, parliamentary committees dealing with foreign and defense policies, trade unions, opinion leaders and the media. He was also designated Briefing and Liaison Officer for Spain (a.i.).
In November 1994, he was dual-hatted as Officer for Southern and Eastern Mediterranean Countries, External Relations Section, OSG, OIP, in charge of outreach activities to the seven Middle Eastern and North African countries members of the Mediterranean Dialogue, since its establishment in December 1994. In October 2001, following another international competition, the Secretary General of NATO Lord Robertson appointed Nicola de Santis to the post of Information Officer for Mediterranean Dialogue and Partner Countries, in the Outreach and Partner Relations Section, OSG, OIP, in charge of NATO’s relations and projects with governments, political leaders, parliamentarians, academics and the media of the seven Mediterranean Dialogue countries. In September 2004, he became the NATO Public Diplomacy Division Coordinator for the Mediterranean Dialogue and for the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative.
On 1 January 2006, then NATO Secretary General Mr. Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, following promotion, appointed Mr. de Santis to the position of Head Mediterranean Dialogue and Istanbul Cooperation Initiative Countries Section, in the NATO Public Diplomacy Division, reporting to the Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy and to the Secretary General of NATO. In January 2011 he was appointed by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen as the Head of the Mediterranean Dialogue and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative Countries Section in the Political Affairs and Security Policy Division and in July 2012 as Head of the Middle East and North Africa Section in the Political Affairs and Security Policy Division.
For his distinguished service at NATO Headquarters, he was awarded the Cross of Grand Officer of the Order of the Merit of the Star, the Cross of Commander of the Order of the Merit of the Star by the President of the Republic of Italy and the Cross of Knight of the Order of the Civil Merit by the King of Spain. Mr. de Santis lectures regularly at high level international conferences, workshops and symposia representing NATO. His previous positions before joining NATO included: Special Programs Officer at the NATO Defense College; Research Fellow on Middle Eastern conflicts and terrorism at the Italian Society for International Organizations (S.I.O.I.) in Rome, Secretary General of the Four Freedoms Club of Rome; Parliamentary Assistant to the Chairman of the Defense Committee and Secretary of the Intelligence Committee of the Italian House of Deputies; Director of the Italian Atlantic Council of Young Political Leaders (CIAG) and member of the international Executive Committee of the Atlantic Association of Young Political Leaders (A.A.Y.P.L).